1-25-2009 Kayak Dude interview

I took in WVIA’s State of Pennsylvania show on Thursday night, only because the four local talk show hosts from WILK were scheduled to appear in front of a live television audience.

Before the show got underway, I gave Wifey a verbal list of people I expected to either call in, or ask a question while on camera. You know, bloggers, activists, perennial candidates and all around camera hounds. Shameless self-promotion, I think they call it. Lo-and-behold, I was correct on 4 of 6. Not too bad.

The show was great. Although, it was way too short for my tastes. Sort of like how talk radio is when it’s wildly entertaining. Nancy was about what I expected. You know, just like she is on the radio. Although, Bill Kelly repeated what I’ve heard many, many times out here in WILK Land, that since she’s teamed up with Kevin, she’s taken a noticeably hard turn to the left. She can deny it all she wants, but people have noticed.

Sue came across just as she does on the radio. She’s pleasant, easy-going and not one for tit-for-tat exchanges of verbal jousting. Although, it sure is entertaining when she comes close to losing her cool. A mad Sue is a fun Sue.

The surprise was just how much more likeable Kevin was in person. Not the same guy I hear calling people names and berating those he disagrees with on the radio. Then again, you can’t hang up on those you engage face-to-face, so I guess he has no choice but to dial it back just a tad.

And Steve…Steve looked as if he was about set to repel down from his Black Hawk into a firefight with a belly full of prescription-strength black beauties. I think he missed his calling. He should have been a weak side linebacker in a 3-4 defense somewhere. His intensity was matched only by his lack of humor. Sure, fighting for truth, justice and the Amerikan way is important and all. But dude, take a freaking chill pill every once in a while. Life’s too short.

Fred Williams’ name even came up. And as always, Nancy said he was not terminated due to anything but a need to go in a new direction.

Some requested even more local talk than we have now, but that’s not likely to happen anytime soon, save for in incremental bits. Fact is, not very many people can ramble on for hours and hours on end, keep it coherent and keep it somewhat entertaining. These four people can. Although, I could do with a little less shouting, grunting and snorting during the afternoon time slot.

Anyway, WVIA’s State of Pennsylvania is locally produced and always entertaining.

Check it out.

Isn‘t this always the case in these demented parts? The people, the “activists’ who tell us they alone know best how to run the government can’t even operate a petition without help.

From the Times Leader:

County to OK home rule question

And the excerpt:

Luzerne County Commissioners are meeting at 10:30 a.m. Monday to enact an ordinance putting the home rule study question on the May 19 primary election ballot.

That’s fortunate for the home rule organizers because they would have encountered a problem with the signature petitions they’ve been circulating.

Election Bureau Director Leonard Piazza said he saw a petition form and noticed it was addressed to the “Secretary of the Commonwealth.” Piazza said he can’t accept petitions on the state’s behalf, and doesn’t believe the state would accept the petitions because home rule is a county issue. Petitions can’t be altered after someone signs them, he said.

The need for petitions will become irrelevant once commissioners adopt the ordinance because the ordinance would take precedence, Piazza said.

Oops!

The self-appointed know-it-alls dropped the ball yet again. So, what else is new?

Wow! They had better hope the county commissioners do not reconsider their previously stated commitment to putting the question on the ballot without the necessary, without the required signatures.

I ask again, what’s worse, the oft-hated, less than transparent status quo or the ill-equipped Revolution For Dummies crowd? In my mind, you’ll need to flip a coin to answer that one. We can do away with the well-entrenched status quo by utilizing the ballot box. But once we adopt Home Rule, it’s here to stay minus some mammoth undertaking.

And in all reality, isn’t this latest Home Rule push just a cleverly disguised power grab by the frustrated republicans, the frustrated activist/candidates and folks normally found on the fringes?

In lieu of presenting formidable candidates, effective campaigning, proper fundraising and organizing, isn’t this just a clever gambit by which the losing party can reinvent the political wheel and snag an illusive victory from the jaws of their sure-to-be next defeat?

And do we really want a government crafted by Luzerne Home Rule (all four of them), the nameless and faceless NEPA Organizing Center or it’s offshoot, the Media Mobilizing Project? Is that what we want? A gang of 6 or 8 telling us what we need, namely them?

I’m too young and stupid to operate a petition. So, why don’t you put me in charge?

Yikes!

Whoa! An incoming link fresh from “Google Alerts.” What’s this, my name came up on Gort 42 as part of a “Walter Griffith for Controller” post?”

What?

Dear Gort,

I appreciate your Blog today regarding the Luzerne County Blog Page and the comments that were made concerning the candidates that expressed their interest to run for this office in the County. I do however must clarify the comment about me being a " Pain in the Ass" which is referenced to Wilkes Barre Online Web Page.

The Wilkes Barre Online Blogger Mark Cour is a very knowledgeable and interesting writer and blogger whom of which I have the utmost respect and appreciation for, in regard to, his ability to express his opinion.

I consider myself a very knowledgeable and formidable person regarding the County and City Political scene in this County and I attend as many meeting as possible with knowledge and information that would make our elected officials at least think about the way they are treating us as taxpayers that are their employers not the other way around as they would like everyone in the County to believe.

I have been very instrumental in making the City get all the information about the City Council meetings posted online in advance of all the meetings, because of my constant and relentless attending the meetings and asking them to do it with the proper information and concerns for the taxpayers...If that is being a "Pain in the Ass" then I am guilty as charged but the taxpayers deserve this information so they can be informed about what OUR ELECTED OFFICIALS are doing in government.

I was the person that represented the entire Luzerne County Taxpayers in a lawsuit to stop the County from borrowing 16 million dollars because they mismanaged our money and therefore were not being responsible to US THE TAXPAYERS.

There are many things that I have been able to accomplish by just being at the meetings with the proper information and I am very proud of my accomplishments as a taxpayer advocate, however there are some in the County that feel that this is being a "Pain in the Ass" and that is fine and they are entitled to that opinion, however I feel this is the reason why the County and City Governments are in the state and condition that they are in at the present time because of the people not being there to keep them accountable but they rely on the press and the blogger to do the work for them.

I appreciate your Blog, as well as the blogs of so many others like Dave Yonki and Mark Cour, and would also appreciate the recognition of all the things that I do to make the government accountable to US the Taxpayers as well..

Walter L Griffith JR
Luzerne County Taxpayer and Activist

As to the “pain in the ass” thing, those were Gort’s words, not mine. So I’m not entirely sure why I‘m included in this mix. Then again, I truly do not care.

Although, I’m fairly certain that very many of our locally elected officials would nod in silent agreement with the “pain in the ass” description being affixed to Walter. And Frankly, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with a citizen upping and being a constant pain in the whatever for the elected officials. With that said, I do not believe that citizens who choose to do otherwise deserve to be chastised for not following Walter’s lead:

“… however I feel this is the reason why the County and City Governments are in the state and condition that they are in at the present time because of the people not being there to keep them accountable but they rely on the press and the blogger to do the work for them.”

Sure, that’s easy for someone who is self-employed to say, that we‘re not doing our due civic diligence. But most people drink all night and sleep all day thanks to their government checks, and some of us are even gainfully employed by employers who do not take kindly to the thought of us attending every meeting ever held.

The way I remember civics class, we were supposed to stay abreast of the issues and vote like a champion. And if we were really, really civic-minded, we should run for an elected office ourselves. Nobody said anything about needing pitchforks and whatnot. Nobody said we’d be subject to abuse for not being a regular at meetings.

The fact is, I tried that meeting routine a while back. I attended some city council meetings. And I have to say they were about as stimulating as a pornographic movie would be without women in the cast. And information-wise, they are not necessary. What I could learn at a council meeting pales in comparison to what I could learn by way of a telephone, the internet or a trip to city hall or voter services.

From what I’ve seen at city council meetings, most of the noisiest of the regular attendees were so totally immersed in self-aggrandizement, the rest of us on hand were reduced to having to painfully endure them feeding their own inflated egos. Oh, and there was never any shortage of mistake-riddled data, half-truths or clear misrepresentations being presented as grievances. Yet, the activists never get tired of patting themselves on the back for being there. Never.

And as we can discern from the tone of Walter’s self-congratulating e-mail, you and I are much more responsible for government corruption than is he. Why? Because we’re too busy to attend every meeting ever held. And remember, the activists always decry what they see as “arrogance” on the part of the elected. But it’s not arrogant to that Walter and his ilk are doing their civic duty, while pointing out that, in their opinion, we are not? That’s insulting pap.

“The Wilkes Barre Online Blogger Mark Cour is a very knowledgeable and interesting writer and blogger whom of which I have the utmost respect and appreciation for, in regard to, his ability to express his opinion.”

Gee, how high-minded. Yeah, but this is the very same guy who threatened to pursue stalking charges against me after I took a single picture of the exterior of his business, and from 200 yards away. And as I correctly pointed out to him, the intention of a stalker is to eventually make contact with the person being stalked. And since I never once tried to contact him, his threats of legal action were much ado about nothing. Utmost respect and appreciation? Uh, okay. That sounds nothing like the stuff he’s said about me in the past, the stuff I’ve cached. Sounds like the once-activist, now-candidate has cleaned up his act.

And do not weakly attempt to marginalize my efforts. Not only do opinions appear on these electronic pages of mine, so do certifiable facts. When Walter was going on about trimming salaries of late, who was it that correctly pointed out that exactly 16 city employees are not of the unionized variety? Yep, that was me. And I’ll bet my next twelve-pack that not one of the regulars making the majority of the incessant activism noise at the council meetings knew that. Glad I could bring them up to speed.

As I said, there is absolutely nothing wrong with holding our elected officials accountable, even if that gets one labeled as being a dreaded pain in the ass. However, as my exhaustive files will prove, Walter has been very, very reckless with some of the comments he directed at elected officials on the internet over the years. And when those half-truths, mistruths, innuendoes and mischaracterizations are easily proven to be incorrect, where does that leave his credibility?

And he, just like the elected officials he disparages, promises things he can’t deliver. For instance, I’m still awaiting the results of the forensic audit of the expenses associated with Tom Leighton’s inauguration ball that Walter once promised us. And I’m still waiting for the PAC he registered at voter services to do anything of note. Actually, anything at all.

If talking a good game could be equated with effecting substantial change, then the activists so frequently roaming City Hall are all the heroes they see themselves as, and so often make themselves out to be. But the way I’m seeing it, all that the noisiest of the activists hailing from Wilkes-Barre have managed to accomplish to this point is the incessantly redundant blowing of their own horns. Sorry, but raising your voice sans tangible results does not result in better government.

And as activism pertains to the current situation in Wilkes-Barre, you activist types are a day, a dollar and mayor short. Where the hell were you people when the previous mayor was running our financial wheels off? Where were you people when the city’s infrastructure was fast becoming that of Beirut? Where the heck were all of the budding heroes back when the entire crowd on Public Square on a Sunday afternoon amounted to me and my grandkids?

Where were you? You sat idly by while one Web site was taking that mayor to task and then some. So don’t feed me some insulting line about expressing my opinion. The brandished fact is, I forgot more about Wilkes-Barre than these self-appointed activists will ever know. Been there, done that. Mission accomplished!

I will recognize Walter’s tireless efforts. I happen to know that with a tireless devotion to this sort of stuff comes personal sacrifices to be made. And with it comes a neon target suddenly sprouting out of your back. But when it’s all said and done, nobody offers to pin a medal on you. No one awards you the ceremonial key to the city. No one really cares. So, I think some of us need to resist the overwhelming urge to pat ourselves on the back.

And with all of that excess verbiage having been typed, Walter, assuming that you want to become the next Luzerne County Controller, stop telling me what you think you did in the past, and start telling me what you’re going to do upon being elected.

The thing is, personally, I’d love nothing more than to see a couple of republicans thrown into the mix at the courthouse, just to further stir things up for the long-entrenched party. There would be no quicker way of completely unsettling them than by electing a republican to be the controller. And the thought of our commissioners being frustrated with and angered by a guy like Walter as the acting county controller makes me want to giggle with delight.

Would I actually support Walter Griffith, you ask?

In this county, at this time, with this position up for grabs?

You know, I just might.

Kayak Dude interview.

If you don’t know this Kayak Dude character, here’s the briefest of introductions.

He grew up in Wilkes-Barre, he is a self-described environmentalist, and he spearheaded and won the fight against Paul Kanjorski’s proposed inflatable dam at Wilkes-Barre.

When he’s not busy, you can usually find him paddling some branch of the Susquehnna River. Last I heard, he had paddled over 1,000 miles on the river. He is also, maybe not officially, a well-read and passionate Susquehanna River historian. (No Chief Muckamucka jokes, I swear)

From what I’ve seen, when he dives headlong into a given issue, he is then single-minded in purpose and relentless. Ask Paul Kanjorski about that. And now that the inflatable dam battle has been won, he has turned his sights on the hydraulic fracturing process that is inherent in any deep drilling for natural gas deposits.

Now, the drilling of the Marcellas Shale region in NEPA is just getting underway, meaning, not very many private property owners have leased their lands of yet, or, not many drilling rigs have begun operations. But, day-by-day, the numbers of properties being drilled are increasing. And as more and more bedrock formations are fractured, the risks of natural gas, excess metals and the toxic chemical cocktail that is fracturing fluid seeping through the water tables increase.

In other words, our supplies of safe water are being put at an increasing risk of being contaminated.

By the way, Kayak Dude also goes by the nom de guerre, Don Williams.

Kayak Dude

And before we dive into the interview, here’s a neat story: Natural gas in water wells has N.Y. officials on alert. Check the picture of the guy lighting his tap water on fire with an electronic match. Poof!!! Awesome. Well, not if it’s coming from your well, it’s not.

1.) In the past year alone, we’ve had two explosions in the region attributed to natural gas drilling. The one in Milford resulted in a shutdown of Route 84, and the one in Dimmock Township reduced a concrete well house to rubble. And in the Dimmock Township incident, the well house in question was several thousand yards away from the drilling site. With that said, isn’t the general public being put at risk by being in close proximity to any of these many drilling sites?

If they have private wells…or open sewer systems…yes. Gas will find its way through whatever pathway possible to the surface. One spark or open flame later…kaboom. The geology of our region…a folded mountain range, is loaded with fractured bedrock. Once they drill down and fracture even more bedrock, gas and water will find its way to the surface very quickly. This has happened after only a few wells have been drilled. Imagine - for a moment - another 1,000+ wells underway. It will not be pretty.

Spidering

2.) I read that the well that exploded in Dimmock Township was said to contain “high levels of metals, magnesium, iron , etc..” Is that something that normally occurs even where hydraulic fracturing is not ongoing?

That I’m not 100% sure of. Local geology has a lot to do with it. Bottom line is the more drilling that takes place, the more wells will become contaminated with who knows what. It has already happened. It will get worse.

3.) Assuming a well is contaminated by natural gas, flowback water from the fracturing process, or high levels of metals and what have you, can that well be rehabilitated? Or is it lost to us a source of safe drinking water? (and follow-up question)

It is pretty much lost for the lifetime of the owner and a few more generations. As you know, those folks with contaminated wells are already having drinking water trucked in. Any treatment system will cost tens of thousands of $. I doubt the oil companies will pay for those.

4.) If it can be returned to being a safe source of water, are we talking months or years before it’s deemed to be safe?

Truthfully, more like decades. Once groundwater is contaminated…it’s pretty much not potable for a very long time.

Wide swaths of land

5.) Dimock Township is home to U.S. Congressman Chris Carney. To your knowledge, have any citizens appealed to him for any sort of help from his office or from the federal government?

They may have appealed to him, but he has been silent. This truly disappoints and disturbs me. The man has a degree in Environmental Science, is well educated, and has done absolutely nothing. Dimock is where this man lives. He is taking the easy route, and his constituents are having to have water trucked in. I wonder if he has a well on his property? I met with the Congressman after he was elected to discuss the proposed dam. Although he supported the dam because of his alliance with Paul Kanjorski, he seemed to “get it.” I expect more from him.

6.) In the long run, how would we stand to make more money? By leasing our properties to the gas exploration companies, or by suing them after they contaminate our water supplies?

In the second case…the lawyers would make all the money. Although I have not read any of the leases, I’m guessing the oil companies are fully protected against most lawsuits. The typical landowners would make some money by leasing…but will lose in the long run when their land and wells become contaminated and they cannot sell their properties. Short term gain…long term loss.

7.) Since some companies have been denied access to water treatment plants for the purposes of disposing of the flowback waters, isn’t it logical to expect some unscrupulous operator or operators to release it into the nearby tributaries or a river a la the Butler Mine Tunnel?

Never happen. Nope. The oil companies are much too honorable to do that.

(Your hated author giggles out loud with that response.)

8.) Have there been any reports or rumors, documented or otherwise, of flowback water being pumped into the Susquehanna River?

Not yet, but this is just starting to take off. There is already a plant being proposed for Eaton Township - near Tunkhannock - that will treat only flowback water and pump it directly into the Susquehanna. Problem is, the salt content and dissolved solids will still be way above EPA limits and they are hoping the river will “dilute” the treated water. What about the river right where it dumps in? Don’t eat the fish, don’t swim in it…just stay well away.

Goes very deep

9.) I find it appalling that while our elected officials in Washington D.C. pay daily lip service to the dangers of global warming, they pay scant attention to the climate change going on in our back yards. Some of which, by the way, they make possible through legislation, or by way of their pet projects, such as natural gas drilling on smallish, privately-held tracts of land, or the proposed damming of polluted rivers. We should save an ice shelf on the top of the world, but pollute our local supplies of drinking water and our local rivers? Make any sense to you? Any thoughts on this?

I have yet to meet a politician that has an independent thought of any value about environmental issues. Their opinions have already been bought and paid for by their campaign contributors. In the decade + I was opposing the inflatable dam, I was amazed at the ongoing display of environmental ignorance from most of our elected or appointed officials. By the way, Feb 14th marks the one year anniversary of the day the dam died. Sorry, guys.

10.) Have you spoken to anyone who’s land is currently being drilled upon?

I am traveling to the Binghamton area in early March to meet with a group of locals who have had their wells contaminated. I will see, firsthand, what a drilling operation looks like.

11.) Have you heard of anyone or any group currently organizing in hopes of suspending the drilling of the Marcellus Shale region?

I’ll have to pass on responding at this time. I’d only recommend the SRBC (Susquehanna River Basin Commission) rent a stadium for their June meeting in Binghamton.

12.) You hinted on your Web site that the 2009 Wyoming Valley RiverFest event just might be the biggest and best ever? Would you care to share any of the details with us?

It is starting to come together, but I’m hearing there will be TWO nights of camping and festivities at Nesbitt Park, and the new RiverFront Landing will be formally dedicated that weekend as part of Riverfest. I’m also hearing dignitaries from H-burg and DC will attend. Maybe a few will even get in a kayak and join us seasoned river rats. More down the road.

Thanks, Dude. I will see you there.

Later

Ice from water eking out of the exposed layers of bedrock






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